Tim Mälzer has been flirting with being the best Italian chef outside of Italy for years. With a wink, of course. But the Hamburger’s love of Italian Nonna cuisine is no joke. This is his heart’s kitchen, it’s where he thrives. He has now sufficiently proven that he can master them. But he didn’t learn this during his training at the Hotel Intercontinental in Hamburg. And not at the London Ritz either. He learned this from an Italian who, although not a big name at the time, had an incomparable passion for taste. With a man that Matthew Norman once wrote about in the Sunday Telegraph, who “cooks like an angel – and no ordinary angel” – Gennaro Contaldo. The Gennaro Contaldo, who once took Jamie Oliver by the hand.

In the very west of the Italian boot, where the houses climb up the mountains to escape the surging sea, there, just a stone’s throw from Amalfi and Ravello, Gennaro Contaldo grew up. It was in the coastal town of Minori that he, born in the 1940s, lost his heart to the local cuisine and the products of the region. The taste of the Amalfi Coast, the “cucina amalfitana”, still forms the common thread of his cuisine today.

It is said that Contaldo was already helping out in the village restaurants when he was eight years old – and thus set the course for the future. At the end of the 60s he dared to jump across the water to the British island. A few years of uncertainty followed until Contaldo found his way back to the stove and cooked his way through the kitchens of London. Antonio Carluccio’s “Neal Street Restaurant” was to become the fateful place where he suddenly found himself surrounded by the youngsters Jamie Oliver and Tim Mälzer in the mid-90s. He was supposed to be her mentor.

In the fifth season of the cooking show “Kitchen Impossible”, Gennaro Contaldo appeared as the original chef and gave an emotional insight into their time together. “A lot of people think they owe their success to me. That’s not the case. They’re both born talents and I just let them do it,” he said. Both are very intelligent, willing to work hard, and very funny and sensitive boys. “I was the happiest man in the world because I was able to share the fun and love with them both.” For Mälzer and Oliver, their time at Contaldo’s side was a stage at the beginning of their careers, but they also became elective relatives. “I always say I have seven children. Five of my own, and numbers six and seven are Tim and Jamie,” concluded Contaldo. Mälzer was visibly touched by these words. This time, he said, was unique, “and one of the reasons why I love this job so much.”

During this time, Mälzer recently said in the podcast “Johann Lafer

In 1999, Contaldo opened his first restaurant, Passione, which enjoyed a reputation like Donnerhall, but has since closed. He also increasingly swapped the stove for the television. He later became known to a wider audience, especially in the wake of his former protégé Jamie Oliver, who quickly became the rebellious poster boy of the culinary world in Great Britain in the early 2000s. On the other hand, through the BBC series “Two Greedy Italians”, which he hosted together with his former boss Carluccio. Contaldo also regularly publishes cookbooks, or bestsellers. His latest work is an ode to the lemon – and to his homeland.

To this day, he still starts every day with a lemon – “well, with a bit of lemon zest in my morning espresso,” he writes in the introduction to “Gennaro’s Limoni: Italian Cooking and Baking with Lemons.” You could say he was raised on lemons, he says. There were always some in the house. “Lemons are a part of me, my childhood and my culture,” he says. For the new book, the 73-year-old returned to his roots, walking through the lemon groves, collecting recipes and learning how to make limoncello and candied lemons. The book is dedicated to his friends and family back home. It is also a declaration of love to Amalfi cuisine, the cuisine that once so shaped his cooking style – and that of Mälzer and Oliver.

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